Summit of Stromboli

photo, rain, place de la concorde In the Place de la Concorde.

Tasting Its Looks, Smells

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 5. March:–  When one is really poor the only way to live sanely in Paris is to keep the gaze on the straight and narrow and off the food displays which abound. It's bad enough that delicious smells get through averted eyes, but who knows if memory is true? It could be that roasting chicken smells like a used tire dump if you haven't had one on a plate near you for a couple of years.

Take my Rue Daguerre with its six bakeries, three chicken joints, its cheese stands and all the other stray scents that waft out of the cafés, restaurants, sushi joints, pizza parlors, cake shops, tea rooms, chocolate emporiums, ice cream stands, delis, fruit kiosks and the fish depot. It's a riot of odors for the blind and simply maddening for those with sight but no bread.

The Very Good Friend of Mine – the VGFoM – is in town on a visit and we were out walking in another quartier when we happened on the Bon Marché's Grande Epicerie and before we could help ourselves we were inside, assaulted by a Niagara of, not just food, but the kind of stuff that started a revolution. "Let the clowns eat cake!"

Regular readers will recall that I passed a few weeks at the beginning of the year in New York. There, if you want good bread, you have to be in the know about Amy's, any branch, Orwarshers up on the UES and Eli Zabars. Some groceries were found at Agata & Valentina but then we were in exotic Korean supermarkets too, looking for cheap greens.

photo, candyFruit jellies galore.

The word for it is delicatessen, a German word which has feinschmecker as a synonym, or maybe the customer who wants the delicate eating. Yeah, well, I was there too but I live here now and I have stayed away from the Grande Epicerie ever since it opened. My eyes, as they say, were opened wide last week. The place is wicked. If you buy something there you are done – you will never live shipwrecked on a desert island in peace.

What a pleasant place to wander in! The phrase eye candy seems the most apt. Jolly little French elves toil all night confectioning over–large bonbons, looking like the colorful illustrations in children's books, and you can buy them and take them away to eat in privacy – for drooling in public is not well regarded.

photo, terrace, wine, cafe And always, the café terrace.

And of course, none of it is given away. I had to wonder while I was there, just who shops in the place? I mean, there are tons of the stuff, endless displays, and it is hard to imagine that all the rich folks of Paris clean it out every day. If not, what then? Donated to Restos de Cœur?

Later, after having a home–made meal that was quite tasty we were out for a drink and a soccer match on the café's wide–screen TV, and in a spirit of WTH decided to have a dessert. Their little elves, still on duty, dribbled like they all do in finer places, chocolate all around a huge plate holding a slipper full of some kind of – I don't know what it was. PSG lost but we didn't care.

On Friday we went to the local marché but more to say hello than to stock up. It's not a fancy marché. All the same we came away with some olives and passed the cheese stand and stopped in at a bakery, and that translated into a simple snack, hardly worth a photo.

photo, last drink, cafe, wine Until the last drink at the end of the night.

On Saturday I decided to forgo a pizza in a local place that is very good and try a special off the chalkboard, a sort of two–tone escalope done in a Brindisi style. For a dessert I had the Stromboli rather than the other, and it was great and huge.

I am leaving out shopping in Chinatown last weekend and all the cafés with kirs across the week, and the less successful dinner in the Comédia where I was well–served because I skipped the cod. And then, walking off the Stromboli on Friday, another café and another drink, surrounded by a whole café full of diners putting away oysters.

photo, sign, metro

For the whole week it was two dinners out – not counting the just–dessert café – and several café stops and a bit of casing places. It seemed like food was everywhere and a constant subject. It's what you do in Paris, especially when you aren't rolling in poverty. For a change of pace, it's kind of fun and a comfort for the soul.

To be continued... right here, next week.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini